Meet Nick

I’m using this snowday to type up a little interview I did with Nick this past week.  Read on…

Quick Facts
Name: Nick Balentine A.K.A. Superman
Age: 17, Bday 6/14
Position: Dishwasher
Hometown: Smithfield, VA
Favorite WHBC food: Burgers
Favorite WHBC beer: Underage!
Education: Smithfield High
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WHBC: Hey Nick, how long have you worked here?
Nick: It’s been about a year.
WHBC: You’re done with school this month right?  What are your plans now? (A high school senior’s favorite question, I know)
N: Well, I’m done with classes this month, but I will walk with my class to graduate in January.  I plan to go into the Navy next year.
WHBC: Right!  You’re from a Navy family, yes?
N: Yeah, my mom was in the Navy and my dad still is.  He’s been in for 20 years.
WHBC: That’s awesome; what does he do?
N: He’s an Aviation Boatswain Mate.
WHBC: Is that what you want to do also?  Or something different?
N: For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go into the Navy.  I’ve wanted to enlist and do exactly what my dad does.
WHBC: So when do you plan to start your career?
N: Probably next year; I’d like one more round of holidays at home before leaving.
WHBC: You have siblings at home too?
N: I’ve got two younger brothers.
WHBC:  So what do you do in your spare time?
N: I hang out at my grandparents’ house and help them out.
WHBC: What kind of music do you like to listen to?
N: Probably country; my favorite group is Florida Georgia Line.
WHBC: Ever seen them in concert?
N:  Nope.
WHBC: Well, there’s your fist bucket list item.  Speaking of that…any other things already on that list?
N: Go to Hawaii and Australia.  And go skydiving.
WHBC: Oh gosh…sky diving.  I’m terrified of the thought.  But Hawaii was definitely worth the trip!
WHBC: Last question…if you could talk to any person (or group of people) from history, who would it be and why?
N: Ronald Reagan because he’s one of my favorite presidents and I feel like it would be cool to talk to him.
WHBC: What words of wisdom do you have for those younger than you?
N: I guess to not worry about what other people say or are doing.  Just keep your head down and focus on what you want to do.
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Wondering what it’s like to work with Nick?  He’s almost always upbeat and encouraging of everyone around him.  I’ve known him to just tell someone they’re doing great out of the blue.
Joe says, “He’s a hard worker and easy to get along with…until he starts talking about the Patriots.”
Brooke: “Nick is very nice and always helpful.”
Kylee: “He talks too much and always wears a Superman shirt, but he shares his Skittles with me, so he’s alright in my book!”

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Meet Justin

 Things were a little busy for us this fall, so I’ve been slacking on the staff interviews.  But I am back on track, and ready to present the next Staff Spotlight.  Let’s meet Justin…
Quick Facts:
Name: Justin Walker
Age: 16, bday 2/15
Position: Line Cook
Hometown: Smithfield, VA
Favorite WHBC food: Blackened chicken marinara
Education: Junior, Smithfeld High School
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WHBC: You seem to be here every time I come in.  How long have you worked here?
Justin: My dad told me about 9 months ago they were looking for a dishwasher.  So that’s how I started.  The guys on the line encouraged me to start cooking, so I’ve been doing that about a month.
WHBC: What do you do on the line?
J: Normally I work the fryer, but I’m learning how to call out orders and work the grill now too.
WHBC: Your dad is a great chef – do you ever cook with him at home?
J: No, he’s really good at it, so I just let him do it.
WHBC: Is this something you can see yourself making a career of?
J: Maybe.  I want to go to college, though I don’t know where yet. I was thinking culinary or accounting.
WHBC: That’s quite a difference in subject.  I get the culinary, but why accounting?
J: I’m really good with numbers and math so it would make sense.  I have good grades in school; I’ve already gotten a scholarship through my high school.  I’m good at everything except Spanish.
WHBC: I’ve been told that actually.  I almost started out your interview asking you questions exclusively in Spanish to torture you, but thought better of it!  Well, that covers work and school; what do you do for fun?
J: Really just hang out with friends, go workout or play basketball at the Y.
WHBC: Any quirky hobbies?
J: Not really.  Well, I like sneakers.
WHBC: So you’re a sneakerhead?  Is that still a word or am I sounding old?
J: Haha.  No, that’s a thing.  Yeah, I have 11 or 12 pairs of basketball shoes.  My favorite pair is my new Jordan 1s.
WHBC: You’ve got 12 pair?!  That’s…{insert pause here while I roll my eyes into my brain doing mental math}…enough money to buy a decent used car!
J: Yeah, haha.  I’ll buy a car eventually.  I won’t have my license until March.
WHBC: So when you do get your vehicle and license, where is the first place (other than work or school) you’ll go?
J: Virginia Beach with friends probably.
WHBC:  Traveling…if you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to be?
J: So many places! I have family all over the place!  I guess Italy first.  It looks nice and the food is great.  But Europe in general; England, Sweden, Iceland.
WHBC: You do have family everywhere!  Your parents and siblings are all still in this area, yes?
J: Yes. I live with my mom.
WHBC: You were born and raised here.  What is one of your funniest childhood memories?
J: Haha.  When I was 6 years old, I fell into a fire.  We had just finished cutting down a tree.  I was just walking along and tripped over the stump, stepped on a nail, then fell into the fire.  I remember my parents bringing me in and sitting me in a green chair with a bunch of ice packs.
WHBC: Oh gosh.  Did this traumatize you at all?  I mean, do you still like bonfires?  You’re not a pyromaniac now or anything like that are you?
J: No. Haha. No trauma!
WHBC: Well, I know from experience you are a very talented french fry thrower.  Other than the art of potato throwing, what interests you?
J: I like all kinds of history.  I like to look at different kinds of cars too.  One day I want to get something older, like a McLaren P1.
WHBC: High hopes are good! So last question before I send you on your way, tell me about one person you’d like to meet.
J: Bill Gates, I think.  He’s super rich and intelligent, and I think I could probably learn a lot from him.
WHBC: Fair enough!  Thanks for taking some time to chat!
J: You’re welcome!
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So what’s it like working with Justin?  Let’s see..
Girl Sam: “He’s an awesome worker.  And he always keeps me smiling and laughing!”
Joe: “I like working with him.  It’s been fun helping him and watching him learn.”
Will: “He’s a good guy to work with.”
And I will say, he is always smiling and in a good mood most every time I see him!  He has fun, but gets his job done.
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Meet Pam

Our spotlight this week in our “Meet Wharf Hill” series is shining on  Pam.  There is seriously nothing she can’t do; she keeps this place chugging right along.  I actually did her interview last week, but was a total slacker and not posting until now…

pam1Quick Facts:
Name: Pam Brock
Age: 45
Birthday: December 16th
Position: General Manager
Birthplace: Rescue, VA
Favorite Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite Food: I like it all!
Education: Smithfeld High

WHBC: How long have you worked at Wharf Hill?
Preston: Since we opened.  Robert called in January last year because I told him if he ever opened another restaurant, to call me and I’d be there in a heartbeat.  I worked for him at Battery Park Grille.
WHBC: What did you do before working in this industry?
P: I had a desk job before; office administrator.  I worked at Nistem Corporations, an act manufacturer, for 16 years.
WHBC: So why the switch after so long?
P: I switched because we decided I would take some time off to homeschool the kids.  I did that for a year, then started working at the Grille serving and bartending part time.  The kids went back to school the next year, so I started working full time.
WHBC: What do you like about working in a restaurant?
P: I like not sitting at a desk for 8 hours!  There’s a fast pace and it can be stressful for a short time only.  Other jobs it’s constant stress!
WHBC: How do you help pull the staff through stressful moments here?  How do you get through them?
P: I take a breath and tackle one task at a time; prioritize.  When it’s all said and done, you’re only one person and can only do so much at once.
WHBC: What’s best about working here?
P: The staff!  Other places I’ve worked, the staff doesn’t work as a team.  Here, most everyone pulls together.  I have never worked with a better staff.
WHBC: Of all the hats you wear here, what is your favorite?
P: I actually like it all.  Managing, office work, bartending; doing different things makes sure I don’t get burned out.
WHBC: Do you have any customers who stand out in your mind?
P: 3 o’clock Bob, Ed, Don & Candie; I’ve waited on them all for a while now!
WHBC: You’ve been in this area all your life, right?
P: I have.  I grew up in Rescue and moved to Suffolk after we got married. We’ve lived there with our 3 kids for 26 years.
WHBC: What do you all do for fun?
P: Camping!  I love hanging out with my family and everyone once in a while taking a girls’ night out.  When we go camping, we like hiking and riding bike trails.  Our favorite is Jellystone; there was always a lot to do for the kids like fishing and crabbing on the river.
WHBC: So when you were growing up, what did you want to do?
P: I wanted to work with computers.  My first job, I learned programming in DOS.  I’m telling my age there!  I did that for about 5 years, but then moved to my long term job to make more money.
WHBC: Is that something you still want to pursue or is what you are doing now your career?
P: I don’t really deal with computers anymore; everything has changed since I learned.  A few years ago, I played around making websites, but that’s about it.  Where I am now is where I think I’ll stay.
WHBC: So do you have any funny restaurant stories to share?
P: One day, a woman came in with a group of 3 other people.  She had a little Pomeranian service dog with her.  We sat them, and next time I looked around, I saw she had the dog sitting at the table in the high chair on a cushion.  I thought, “Now I’ve seen it all!”  It was pretty funny.
WHBC: Haha!  I’m not sure how I would react to coming around the corner to seeing something like that. Haha.  So last, question.  A request, really.  Please impart words of wisdom on anyone who is joining the restaurant industry.
P: Are you crazy?!?!  Haha.  Seriously, it can be rewarding and stressful all at the same time.  Just take it one day at a time, and enjoy that it’s always something different.

So read on to see what Pam’s coworkers have to say!

Tom: “She is one of the best people I’ve ever worked with.  I kinda followed her from restaurant to restaurant.”
Brooke: “Everyone is equal in her eyes and it shows, ask her mother.  There’s no guesswork; she’ll tell you as it is.  She craves cooperation and will work with you.  Pam is very professional and sometimes silly; a pleasure to work for and with!”
Preston: “When I first started working with her she was the most intimidating person at Wharf Hill, but now that I’ve befriended her she is one of my favorite people to work with. She is always there and always behind the scenes doing so much to make Wharf run smooth. And she knows her cocktails! haha”
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Meet Tami

Poor Tami had to wait forever it seems for her interview.  I was on vacation, then had surgery so I was laid up and couldn’t write or type!  So here we are…meet Tami!
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Quick Facts:
Name: Tami Ducceschi
Age: 36, Birthday April 22
Position: Bartender/Manager
Hometown: Virginia Beach VA
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Bell Ringer – it removes all motivation to be productive for the rest of the day!
Favorite WHBC Food: Crab cakes
Education: VA Wesleyan and TCC

WHBC: Your hometown is Virginia Beach – how did you get to be out here?
T: My husband and I have a blended family; 4 boys between us.  We needed a bigger house to raise our family in.  So we started looking around and decided to drive out here one day.  And we kept driving, and driving, and driving.  Haha.  It felt like we wouldn’t stop.  But we found a home in Windsor in 2012 and love it.  I prefer being here in the country to the beach.
WHBC: I’m sorry.  You just said 4 boys.  They must keep you on your toes!
T: They do.  They’re 8, 13, 14, and 15.  It could be worse; they could all be girls haha!!  They are all really go kids.  They are all so different; they do their own things so they don’t fight much.  I’m very lucky.  They all know what is expected of them.  My husband and I run a pretty tight ship.  The boys know the rules and follow them.  Most of the time.
WHBC: What do you like to do as a family?
T: Camping and traveling.  We’ve been to Pocahontas, Cherrystone, North Landing, Kiptopeke, Lake Gaston.  We just got a boat and finished out boater safety course, so we are looking forward to wake boarding, fishing, and crabbing.
WHBC: What’s been your favorite family trip?
T: I would say when we went to Disney.  They were all little and could enjoy it.  We went to Massanutten also.  I had tried skiing before and swore I’d never do it again, but we took a lesson there and I tried again and found out I really like it!  Snowboarding not so much.
T: I am very family oriented, and family doesn’t always mean blood.  We are very fortunate to have a couple of families we camp with who we are very close to; we have a solid friend group.  I like my house to be the place where we have bonfires and everyone hangs out and comes together.
WHBC: Very cool!  Do you have family nearby?
T: My mom and grandparents used to live in Virginia Beach, but moved out here near us.  After my mom passed last year, I started being the one to take care of my grandparents.  They’ve since moved to Hampton and I don’t see them often.  My great aunt still lives at the beach, and I take care of her making sure she has what she needs.  I’m the only family she has left.
WHBC: Wow what a full plate you’ve got!  When are able to slow down and relax a bit, what do you like to do?
T: I do genealogy.  Once I start doing that, it’s hard to stop.  I just keep making connection after connection and all of a sudden, the day has gone by.  My dad told me at one time we were related to Stonewall Jackson so I’m trying to figure that out.  I think I’ve got much of his side of the family traced back to the 1400’s.  I also like to work around the house – paint, yardwork, planting, different home projects.
WHBC: Your downtime seems like it keeps you busy too!  So how long have you been working here?
T: Since the very beginning.  I started as a server, then moved on to bartending, then managing.
WHBC: What position do you like working the best?
T: Bartending I think.  I get to spend more time with the customers and can stand and talk to people.  I don’t have to leave their table and come back at all.  I like having that personal time with them because I like to laugh and joke with people.  And the money is good too!
WHBC: Do you have a favorite regular customer?
T: I’m sure I’m going to leave people out.  If I had time to think I could give you a whole list.  Ed, 3 o’clock Bob, Larry, Ed & Cindy, Mark, Megan & Scott, Tom.  It’s funny though because Bob is becoming more of 2:30 Bob.  Later in the week, we have a group that comes in around 3 and takes up the bench in the bar.  They get loud sometimes and I don’t think Bob cares for it.  I like seeing his facial expressions when he reacts to what they’re doing behind him.  He likes to just sit and have quiet conversation on his corner of the bar, so he’s coming earlier now!
WHBC: I’m sure he can be quite expressive!  What’s the funniest or strangest thing that you’ve seen from behind the bar?
T:  Well, the time one of Lee’s sons came in and called Preston “Daddy” was really funny.  A lot of people get the two of them confused; they’re both tall and lanky with dark hair.  The other day a guy by the name of Will came in for lunch.  We were trying to figure out what he did for a living because he was dressed up in a black suit and tie.  I had a long conversation with him – he was very pleasant and positive.  It really made my day speaking with him.  I never found out where he was from or anything.  He tipped well and bought a girl at the bar a couple drinks then left.  Anyway, I googled his name from his charge receipt and turns out he once played for the Seahawks and the Jaguars!
WHBC: Right on!  That’s awesome you had such a great conversation with him and he never even mentioned it!  So speaking about being famous, what was your childhood dream?
T:  To be an actress. I was in plays all throughout school, but never did anything with it.
WHBC: Did you go to college?
T: Oh geez.  Yes. Haha.I went to Virginia Wesleyan and studied all sorts of crazy stuff.  I should have just started with the basics, but instead tried to figure out what I wanted to do and just ended up overwhelmed and quit.  I should have had a plan.  I thought I wanted to study psychology, but never pursued it.  I went back later to TCC for basic ed stuff, then started working at a pharmacy until 2009.  We moved out here and I became a stay at home mom and volunteered at the animal shelter.  Which I’d like to do more of!
WHBC: Yeah, I guess having a plan going into school is probably a good thing.  I can relate though!  So now to the fun stuff.  What’s your favorite TV show?
T: Oh gosh.  Big Brother.  I am absolutely addicted to that show.  I guess frustrated if the DVR doesn’t record for some reason, so I set it up to record two hours after it’s supposed to end so I don’t miss it!
WHBC:Oh wow – I haven’t watched that show in forever! haha.  Last question…and since I know you’ve already thought your answer out for this I will ask what superpower you would have if given the choice?
T:I would be a medium.  Try not to make me sound crazy here, but I have these dreams sometimes.  Premonitions.  And I think if I was a medium I could really help give people peace after their loved ones have passed.  What a wonderful thing that would be.
WHBC:You don’t sound crazy at all!  That’s so interesting.  Thanks for hanging out today!

Want to know what it’s like working with Tami?  Read on…
Liz: “Tami is really easy going.  She’s funny but knows when she can joke around and when she has to be serious.”
Pam: “She can’t count money haha.  She always comes up with different amounts when she counts the drawer. Seriously, Tami is fun to work with, as everyone here is.  Our customers really seem to like her.”
Kait: “Tami is such a pleasure to work with!  She always has a beautiful smile on her face as she prepares to take on the day.  She is very approachable and easy going!”
So basically, Tami rocks!
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Meet Dave

This week’s spotlight is on Dave.  Apparently, he’s been waiting forever for his interview.  Sorry I took so long, Dave!  So read on and let’s get to know him!
Dave 2
Quick Facts:
Name: Dave Walker
Age: 42, Birthday February 21
Position: Chef/Kitchen Manager
Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Isle of Wheat
Favorite WHBC Food: Non Wontons 
Education: Plum High School, PA

WHBC: Hey Dave – so tell me how long you’ve been here.  Since the start?
D: Before we opened actually.  I helped with the construction.
WHBC: How did you find out about the position open here?
D: I saw it on Facebook.  And I knew Robert.
WHBC: Does everyone know Robert?!
D: Ha! Yeah, I used to go up to the Grille and shoot pool.  Knew him from there.
WHBC: Where were you working before this?
D: I was at the Smithfield Inn for 13 years.  I left there to go to the Cypress Cove Country Club, but only stayed there for 6 months because it was boring and not at all busy.
WHBC:  So you’ve been a chef quite a while.  Is this always what you wanted to do?
D: I watched my mom and grandma cook while I was growing up.  I moved here in 1986 and started working at Fire and Ice in Hampton as a dishwasher.  I showed an interest in cooking and one of the chefs there gave me a shot.  Started teaching me and I ended up running the kitchen there before they closed.
WHBC: Why this profession?
D: I love food. haha.  I like to see people eating my food and being happy.  How can I say this…Food brings people together.  I come from a big Italian family and that’s just what we did.  We all got together on Sunday, ate, and had fun.
WHBC: Well said! So did you help create the menu here?
D: Not in the beginning.  Robert had ideas for pub/bar food and my experience was more in fine dining.  I do it now though.
WHBC: Which dishes are your babies?
D: The meatloaf, a different chicken sandwich, the fried green tomatoes, and the marinara is my recipe too.
WHBC: The meatloaf is one of my favorites! So being the manager, you still work the line too, right?  How do you get yourself and the guys through when it gets slammed and you’ve got tickets coming out all over the place?
D: We just focus, stay calm, and do what we have to do.  I say don’t let one screw up slow you down.  Get past it and move on.
WHBC: That’s pretty solid advice. If I were to ask the line, what would they say about working with you?
D: Haha.  I think they’d say I’m fun to work with and that I let everyone be themselves and be creative.
WHBC: What is your favorite part about working here of all places?
D:  I know everyone says this, but the people.  They’re fun to work with and this is a fun place to work.  Lee is an awesome boss and looks out for everybody.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite person to work with?
D:  No, I don’t play favorites.  I really like working with all of them!
WHBC: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you while working?
D: This just happened not too long ago.  I was cooking pork butts to finish them in the oven.  Tom pulled them out and some grease spilled out without him knowing.  It wasn’t long until the oven caught fire and I had to run for the fire extinguisher to put it out!
WHBC: Hahah.  That is very reminiscent of Thanksgiving at my house a few years ago.  Turkey grease spilled and caught the oven on fire. haha.
WHBC: So when you’re not working, what are you up to?
D: I just hang out with friends, shoot my guns ad play corn hole.  I think it would be cool to have a corn hole tournament between the local restaurants.  But we’d have to not be working to be able to do that!
WHBC: That would be fun, although I suck at cornhole!  So tell me about your family.
D: Most of my family is still back in Pittsburgh.  My kids are here in Smithfield.  I have four kids; they’re 19, 18, 16, and 12.  Jacob and Justin both work here.  And I have a 1 year old grandson.
WHBC: And he’s adorable!  So tell me something the world might not know about Mr. Dave Walker.
D: I’m nicer than my coworkers think.  And I like to work on cars.  My dad and grandpa taught me while I was growing up and it just stuck with me.  I’d like to restore my truck one day soon.
WHBC: So are you ready for the weird questions?  I like to save these for last! haha
D: I’ll tell you right now the super power I’d want – to get rid of stupidity! haha.
WHBC: Wouldn’t that be something?! So my question to you then is if you were a time traveler, where and when would you go?
D: I think I’d go to the early 1900s to Italy.  That’s where my family is from and I’d like to see it. And I’ve never been.
WHBC: Have you ever been out of the country?
D: Just recently actually.  We went on a cruise to Cozumel, Jamaica, and Caymans.  We got to swim with sting rays and snorkel the coral reefs.  In Mexico we hung out on the beach.  I didn’t like Jamaica though – people were pushy and there were a lot of drugs.  The island was beautiful though.
WHBC: Last question – what’s your catchphrase?  If I were to ask around, how would people finish this sentence?  Dave always says…
D: Now I can’t tell you that because they all have the F word in them. hahah
WHBC: Yes, then best to save those I guess.  Haha.  Thanks for talking with me – it was fun!

So I’m doing something a little different – giving it a try, spicing things up, stirring the pot… you get it.  Keep reading to see what some of Dave’s coworkers had to say about him.

I asked what it is like to work with Dave.
Nick: ” It’s intimidating, but rewarding.  He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.  He’s a really good role model.”
Sam: “He awful, the worst ever.  He beats us when no one is looking.  Seriously… he’s really great.  No complaints here.  Hopefully I won’t get fired for saying the first haha.”
Tammy: “You gotta keep his water jug refilled.  If he’s got water he’s happy.  If you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, he’s happy.  He doesn’t like confrontation.  Dave is very focused.  He’s hilarious and sarcastic.  If you don’t know him, some might take it personally, but you can’t.  It’s all in fun.  Dave is super creative, hard working, the energy of the kitchen, has a great laugh, and can whip up some of the best desserts I’ve ever had.  That’s saying a lot since I don’t really eat sweets.  When he’s working, I know whatever comes our way, we can get through it!”
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Meet Will

Welcome to this week’s staff spotlight.  Let’s have a chat with Will, shall we?
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Quick Facts:
Name: Will Pruden
Age: 29, Birthday May 15th
Position: Dishwasher/prep cook
Hometown: Smithfield, VA
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Isle of Wheat
Favorite WHBC Food: Chicken Wings
Education: Smithfield High School

WHBC: Hey Will!  I’ll start with the basics; how long have you worked here?
W: Since day 1.  My dad had looked into doing some woodworking here and I asked him if they were hiring.  Came in and filled out an application and the rest is history.
WHBC: What position did you start in?
W: I started out cooking.  I got to stand over in the little corner with AC when I did dishes, so I kind of just moved over there.
WHBC: What’s your favorite position of the three you’ve worked?
W: Prep for sure.  It’s the easiest and nobody really bothers you.  I just throw my headphones in and get to work.
WHBC: What’s your favorite thing about working here?
W: Time flies.  You’ll be working and it’s one minute and then you look up and two hours has passed.
WHBC:  Do you have a favorite person to work with and why?
W: Meagan because she gives me back rubs. haha
WHBC: I should start working in the pub more often if that’s the case!  You work full time; what do you do in your spare time?
W: Yeah I work 5-7 shifts a week.  When I’m not working I just like to sit down and relax on my back porch.  I like to go fishing all along the James.  I’m also a commercial fisherman; oystering and crabbing.  I’m the resident oyster shucker here.  My family owns Brown’s Marina in Rescue, so I’ve been doing that a while.
WHBC: You were born here?  Have you ever left or wanted to leave?
W: Yup born here, and no I don’t want to leave.  This is where it’s at; there’s water everywhere.  I like vacations, but I like living here.
WHBC: Your family is here also, I assume. How many siblings do you have?
W: Two older brothers.  They tormented me and made me into the person I am today!
WHBC: Haha.  Do you have a favorite childhood memory?  Anything that sticks out that you’ll always remember?
W: So, I got my thumb stuck in my grandpa’s pickup.  There’s a little hole in the tailgate and I was pushing my thumb in there and it got stuck.  We had to drive cross the JRB to the hospital so they could use the jaws of life to get my hand free.  The paramedics had to ride in the bed of the truck with me, we had a police escort, it was a pretty big deal.
WHBC: Oh my gosh haha!!  You’re good to go now though, right?  Two working thumbs?
W: *gives me a double thumbs up and a big grin*
WHBC: Excellent.  What is something a lot of people might not know about you?
W:  I guess that I can tell you anything you want to know about the water or seafood.  I’ve been on the water my whole life.  I know all the waterways very well.
WHBC: Cool!  So, weird question time.  Because that’s kind of my thing.  I’ve heard you’re an animal person.  If you could come back in another life as an animal, what would you choose?
W:  A turtle for sure.  They live a very chill life.
WHBC: You seem pretty laid back yourself.  Do you have any life words of wisdom?
W: I guess I’d say not all who wander are lost.
WHBC: Tolkien is very wise!  Will, thank you for the interview!
Will 1
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Meet Tom

Tom is the creator of my all time favorite WHBC food – the Shrimp and Grits.  Seriously, you need to run your buns down here on a Sunday to get some.  Best thing ever.  I surprised him with his interview because of my lack of planning this week, but he took it like a champ.
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Quick Facts:
Name: Thomas Owen
Age: 38
Position: Sous Chef
Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Favorite WHBC  Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite WHBC Food: BBQ
Education: TCC Culinary Program

WHBC: Thanks for taking a a little while to sit and chat with me today!  I know it was a surprise!  So you were born in Baltimore; how did you get here to Smithfield?
T: My parents.  Ha ha.  We moved here when I was 2 or 3 months. My dad worked for Smithfield Foods and got transferred here.
WHBC: How long have you been a chef?
T: I am a culinary graduate from Tidewater Community College. I worked at The Grille, Reel Inn, and here.  I’ve been cooking since I was about 15 years old; it just seems like second nature.  I had chefs in my family, so I got into it and started doing my own thing.
WHBC: Do you remember the first thing you ever made and thought to yourself, “Self, this is good!  I can do this!”
T: Hmmm.  I can’t exactly remember, but it was probably BBQ – I’ve been around pork my whole life.  It’s my favorite.
WHBC: So tell me, are there any cardinal sins of BBQ?  I’ve heard some chefs get very offended if you do certain things to your BBQ (like put coleslaw right on top – sorry not sorry).
T: For people who cook it, it’s that they don’t let it cook long enough.  They try to rush it, but you can’t rush good BBQ – you have to take time and have patience.  As far as eating it, to each his own.  I guess I could say try the meat before you drown it in sauce.
WHBC: You’ve worked here how long?
T: Since we opened.  I grew up with Betty’s youngest daughter, so I knew their family.  When Pam told me about Wharf opening, I came over.  Betty, Pam, and I have been working together since we were all at The Grille.
WHBC: Your culinary education?  What does that consist of?
T: I have two degrees actually. One in Culinary and the other in High Voltage Electricity.
WHBC: Ha! Do you ever use both degrees at the same time?!
T: I try not to…that’d be a little shocking.
WHBC: Do you have advice for someone who might want to be a chef one day?
T: Well, when I was a teachers aid at school, I told the students if you don’t have a passion for it, you won’t succeed.  Whatever your passion, just do it.  Working in a kitchen is hard and you have to be committed.
WHBC: Great advice!  So even though it’s tough, what’s your favorite part about working here?
T: The people.  Definitely.  Dave is an amazing person to work for, and the rest of the guys all bust their butts.  It’s a really great work environment.  I’m impressed everyday at how hard everyone works to put out really great food.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite shift you like to work?
T:  No.  This isn’t a job, it’s my passion, so I work whenever I can.
T: We are always joking around.  All the staff is serious about our jobs, but we have a good time.  It’s always been my motto if you can’t have fun at work, why do it?
WHBC: Agreed!  There are times I’m sure it’s less fun than others.  What is your strategy for getting through those crazy busy times?
T:  Just hunker down and get the job done.  There’s no sense in worrying about things, just do it.
WHBC: So when you’re done working, what do you do to unwind?
T: Time off?  Is there such a thing?!  Well, I have a wife, an 8 year old daughter and a 4 year old son.  I spend all my free time with them.  We like to travel; we just came back from a vacation at the beach, we went to Disney a little while ago.  Anything to get outside and hang out with them.
WHBC: Cool.  So last question so you can get back to work.  If you could have a superpower, what would you pick?
T: That’s a loaded question.  Hmmm.  I’d say the power to heal.
WHBC:Why that one?
T:My father has cancer, and I’d want to be able to heal him.
WHBC: That would be a great power to have…
Now that I’m crying into my beer, we’ll end the interview.  If you see Tom emerge from the kitchen, be sure to say hello!
Tom2
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Meet Betty

I had to catch Betty in between tables to fit her interview in – the pub was packed while we were talking!  If you’ve visited our local restaurants anytime in the last two decades, chances are you’ve seen Betty around.  We’re going to shine the spotlight on her to get to know her just a little better…
 Betty color
Quick Facts:
Name: Betty Carter
Age: 65
Position: Server
Birthplace: Dunn, NC
Favorite WHBC Guest Beer: Pineapple Cider
Favorite WHBC Food: Grilled Shrimp
Education: Sanford Central High School, NC.  I got my GED the same year my Pam graduated!

WHBC: Thanks for taking a few minutes here and there to sit for this!  I’ll start with the basics – How long have you been at Wharf?
B: Since day 2.  I worked for Robert when he owned the Grille, then worked for both owners after, off and on.  I was working at Reel Inn when I heard Robert was opening a new restaurant.  So I called him up and said, “Robert is what I hear true?”  He said, “It depends on what you heard!”  I asked him if he was opening a new restaurant and he told me about Lee and how he was helping Lee open Wharf Hill.  I asked him to keep Pam and I in mind for staffing, and he let me know we were the first two he thought of!  Pam is my daughter.
WHBC: So you followed Robert here – why?  What do you like about working here?
B: Three things: The staff, the management, and the customers.
WHBC: Do you have a favorite customer?
B: The McConnells. I think that’s spelled right.  They’re so nice, easy going, and very polite.  Also, Don & Candie.  They were customers of mine at The Grille, then Reel Inn, then they followed me here.
WHBC: Are you here full time?
B: No. I work 4 shifts a week.  I work full time, five days a week, for Western Branch Diesel as a payroll clerk.  I’ve been there 42 years.
WHBC: Wow!  That’s incredible!  So if you work there full time, and here 4 shifts a week, what do you do in your spare time?  Or is that a mythical idea?  Is spare time even a thing for you?!
B: Not really!  When I’m not working, I’m sitting and resting, and sleeping.  That’s just the reality of it!
WHBC: Do you have any days off total during the week?
B: I do have Sundays off to get caught up on everything.
WHBC: I’m tired just listening to your schedule! When you do find yourself with spare time, or time off, do you have a hobby?  What do you like to do?
B: We like to camp.  We have a travel trailer.  Our favorite place to camp is Bethpage Resort.  We call it the Cadillac of campgrounds.  We like Hatteras also.
WHBC: Getting back to work, since that’s where most of your time is spent anyway!  I’m sure after working in this industry since the 90s, you are familiar with getting in the weeds.  What’s your best strategy for getting out?
B: Holler out for help! You have to ask for help.  Make sure you use big letters for that – HELP!
WHBC: Haha.  I couldn’t agree more!  I was a server for five years and agree you have to rely on each other!  Who is one of your favorite people to work with and why?
B: Debbie, because… {we just got slammed.  Please imagine your favorite telephone hold music at this time.  We will return shortly!}

WHBC: Aaaaand, we’re back.  Two hours later. Okay, so you said you like working with Debbie.  Why is that?
B:  You know what it is?  She’s an excellent team player.  I mean, I like working with everyone, but I really like working with her.  It’s like we understand each other.
B: You asked me before about something funny that’s happened while I’ve been working.  The only thing that came to mind was the time I was walking up from the kitchen, not a thing in my hand, and tripped up the stairs.  Fell right down on the floor and was so embarrassed all I could do was lay there laughing!
WHBC: Haha.  Tripping over nothing is a common thing – it’s okay.  I’m glad you weren’t hurt.  Okay last thing because I know it’s super busy tonight!  Tell me something most people wouldn’t know about you?
B:  Probably that I smoked for 14 years.  I quit in 1976.
WHBC: Congratulations!  That’s hard to do.  Okay, let’s get back to work – thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you! I appreciate you!
B: Well thank you!  I appreciate everyone!
Betty makes me smile every time I see her!
Betty BW
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Meet Traun

This week, we will spotlight Traun.  I caught him for a few minutes before his shift last week.

Traun 1

Quick Facts:
Name: Traun Greene
Age: 36 – Bday Nov 24 (he’s 2 days older than me!)
Position: Kitchen supervisor
Birthplace: Smithfield, VA
Favorite WHBC Beer: Bell Ringer
Favorite WHBC Food: A different chicken sandwich
Education: Smithfield High, Johnson & Wales

WHBC: Thanks for not hiding from me in the kitchen!
Traun: Haha.  No problem.
WHBC: So, how long have you been at Wharf?
T: Since we opened. I worked at CW Cowlings for 13 years.  I left there to work at Ruby Tuesday, but it was just too corporate for me.  So when I heard about the opening here, I came in.
WHBC: What do you like about working here?
T: I like the family feel.  Dave lets us be creative too.  We can make new stuff if we want.  There’s a light mood here to that make me want to work.
WHBC: So what exactly do you do for the kitchen?
T: Most of the time I make sure things are stocked and everything looks good before it leaves the kitchen.  I want to make sure the customers enjoy what we make them.
WHBC: What happens in your mind when it gets slammed?
T: I’ve been at this so long, I just go on auto; it just kicks in.  I do what has to be done.  Sometimes I jump in on the line.  I think it makes it a little easier for me because I’ve been trained by so many great people.
WHBC: Has there ever been anything super crazy to happen to you at work?
T: One night during a storm, the lights went out.  The kitchen was pitch black – you couldn’t see anything.  We couldn’t see, people were falling down the stairs.  Oh and there was another time that Alex (who isn’t here anymore) mix bleach and another chemical while he was cleaning and  put it in a hot skillet.  He made this cloud of noxious gas that filled the kitchen.
WHBC: So he pretty much tried to poison everyone?
T: {laughing} Yeah. Haha.  We had to open all the doors to air it out.
WHBC: I’m glad everyone survived. What would people say is the best part about working with you?
T: Probably that I am always ready to work and usually in a good mood.
WHBC: Have you ever hurt yourself in a weird way?  (I don’t know why I ask this question other than to laugh at other people’s situations)
T: I cut my finger with a piece of toast.  A little paper cut.  And once I almost cut my finger off?
WHBC: With the toast?!
T: Haha. No – with the slicer.  Things just happen sometimes.
WHBC: Happy to hear there’s never been any death by toast.
WHBC: Enough about work – what do you do for fun?
T:My girlfriend, her son and I just got a new house, so now I mostly do yard work and stuff.  We play with our new puppy.
WHBC: Are you a music fan?
T: I listen to rap, mostly.  Old school rap. When I was a kid I got to meet and hang out with Wu Tang Clan because they lived near a friend of mine.
WHBC: That’s a pretty cool story to be able to tell.
T: Yeah, I tell that one a lot!
WHBC: So, here’s weird question for you.. if you had a super power, what would it be?
T: That’s hard.  Probably flight; the freedom to go wherever whenever.
WHBC: Do you like to travel? What’s your favorite place you’ve been?
T: Washington D.C.  My aunt lives there and I used to go every summer.  We’re going again soon.
WHBC: See, if you had the ability to fly, you wouldn’t have to pay any baggage fees!
T: Ha! That’s true.
WHBC: Alright, I know you’re a busy man and have to get to work.  Thanks for hanging out!
Traun 2
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Meet Joe

Joe2 Our second installment of “Meet Wharf Hill” zooms in on Joe.  I cornered him last week in the kitchen just before the Thursday dinner rush…

Quick Facts:
Name: Joseph Thomas Connelly
Age: 27
Position: Head Cook
Romantic Status: Single
Birthplace: Bradford, PA
Favorite Beer: Isle of Wheat
Education: Graduate, Smithfeld High School
WHBC: How did you get started in restaurants?
Joe: My mom was working as a server at Angelo’s Steak House and they needed a dishwasher, so I applied.
WHBC: How old were you?
J: 15.
WHBC: From dishwasher, you moved up to the cook line?
J: Yes, sir.
WHBC: As Angelo’s is no more (it stood on Church Street where the Rescue Squad building is now located), how many restaurants have you worked in during your 12-year career?
J: Eight.
WHBC: Where did you work before starting here?
J: The Plaid Turnip in Suffolk.
WHBC: Cool.  That place is fun. Of the eight restaurants you worked in, which is your favorite?
J: Wharf Hill, of course.
WHBC: I guess I deserved that.  When the dining room is slammed and the kitchen printer is spitting orders like mad, how do you guys keep it together?
J: I just keep my head down and keep going.  For me, the crazier, the better.
WHBC: Right on. What was your busiest day ever?
J: Me and another guy did a $5,000 St Patty’s Day Dinner.
WHBC: I’ve seen your guys rolling behind the line for hours straight and then clean everything down, wrap it up and leave dog tired.  How do you unwind after a a heavy shift?
J: I walk around the neighborhood, maybe drink a couple or beers…listen to music.
WHBC: What sort of music do you like?
J: Melodic Death Metal.
WHBC:  Hmm.  Last question: what is your life’s ambition?
J: To own a pub like my family did back in Ireland.  My grandfather came over on the boat in the 1920’s.
WHBC: Thanks for your hard work, Joe.  Keep gettin’ up.
J: Thank you.
Joe1
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